Give wildlife the space to be wild

Summer is coming, and many of us are going to be out recreating on the ocean. We share these waters with sea otters and other coastal wildlife. Let’s work together to keep sea otters healthy and wild. That means keeping a safe distance so sea otters can rest, feed, and take care of their pups.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and alert to nearby wildlife when recreating.
  • Maintain a safe distance—if a sea otter is looking at you, you are too close and should back away. 
  • If you are taking photos or videos, make sure you are not drifting too close.
  • Keep kayaks at least 60 feet (or five kayak lengths) away from otters and don’t point your kayak directly at an animal.
  • When passing otters, maintain the 60-foot buffer and pass in parallel moving slowly but steadily past rather than stopping.
  • Keep pets on a leash on and around docks and harbors and never allow them to interact with wildlife, even if the animals appear to be playing.
  • Never feed sea otters, as they can become aggressive, which could result in their removal from the wild.

Sea otters are naturally wary of people and avoid interactions; if a sea otter approaches you, that is abnormal behavior. It is your responsibility to avoid and discourage these interactions:

If a sea otter approaches your kayak, surfboard, or other watercraft:
  • Stay calm.
  • Immediately move away from the sea otter.
  • Do not try to photograph, touch, pet, or feed the sea otter.
If the sea otter pursues you or a member of your party:
  • Make yourself large (wave arms, etc.) and noisy.
  • Slap the water with your paddle or hand.
  • Splash water towards the sea otter.
  • Bang on your craft with your paddle or hand.
If all above methods fail and the sea otter still tries or is able to climb onto your kayak or board:
  • Use your paddle or another object to block access or push the sea otter off your craft. Federal laws protect sea otters, and harassing or injuring a sea otter is illegal. However, a gentle nudge with your paddle is acceptable if needed to protect yourself and the sea otter from harm. 
  • Rock your kayak/board or otherwise make it an unstable platform. 
  • Do not attempt to move the sea otter with your hands. 
  • Do not try to touch or pet the sea otter or pause to take pictures.
  • As soon as the sea otter is off your craft, leave the area immediately.
If you are out with your dog and encounter a sea otter:
  • Never allow your dog to chase, harass, play with, or otherwise interact with a sea otter. A dog can injure a sea otter, and a sea otter can easily injure or kill a dog. Interactions can also result in disease transmission that could harm the sea otter, your dog, or you. 

Be a good sea otter steward on and off the water. Recognize that posting videos and photos of sea otter encounters may promote similar wildlife interactions in the future. Use care when you share.

Recreational Activities